Scrum Notes 2013-20

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Encode my values, kill my spirit ▶️

After publishing my article on Value Expressions, a colleague left a comment, which included the following:

"...It actually harms social groups when you have to pretend to feel in ways that you do not feel...I do worry that a culture of insincerity harms people, but I fear if we bring it up, they will add #10: Always be sincere. Here at AwesomeTech Inc, we value honesty in the prescribed scope we've outlined for you in our 800 page manual!"

This made me realise that it's not just the encoding of fun that's a problem in our corporations, but the encoding of any human value. Take collaboration. It is common to see "we value collaboration" in such statements. Well, so do I, but I also value working alone sometimes, having time for quiet reflection. And I really dislike being forced to "collaborate" with people who don't know how to do so. Collaboration is not just working together, listening to every opinion (or any opinion) or finding agreement, it is a particular skill that few have. I'd rather work alone than have to put up with a lot of nonsense about consensus and compromise. But if my desire were encoded—we value isolation—it wouldn't go down so well. It would drive the Wrong Behaviour. Correct driving, steering, controlling seems to be important to management. Let's drive the right behaviour, so everyone is on the same page. We want a workforce which is always happy, positive, enthusiastic, determined, blah, blah, blah.

If corporations want to kill the spirit of the people, creating a value statement is one of the best ways of doing so. And sadly so few see that. You cannot encode the human spirit. Life is a series of tensions. I can only experience happiness if I know what sadness is; I can only collaborate effectively if I have time to work alone; My capacity for sincerity is enhanced when I learn how to enjoy being flippant; I can't be enthusiastic or positive all the time, I also need to doubt. I'd like the freedom to be annoyed, despondent, disgruntled, exasperated, even angry without feeling like I am breaking some imposed company rule. It's absurd.

Corporate value statements are the latest manifestation of the deeply embedded command and control culture in which we citizens exist. Don't let them get away with it. There is only one value corporations need to embrace: the value of allowing people to be exactly who they are—that's who you hired, after all.

Here again is my proposed value statement to replace all the phoney, controlling ones that are inflicted on us:

We value you—heart, mind, body, spirit with all your history, dysfunction, emotional complexity, quirks, samenesses and differences, with your hopes and aspirations. Do your best. We trust you.

Now delete that one, and invent your own.

Palo Alto, 09/04/2015   comment